Rapp Around: Buckeyes Nab Win No. 1
A new era is underway at Ohio State as the men’s basketball team shot forward in its season opener with a 95-64 win over visiting Robert Morris on Friday night. The Buckeyes (1-0) jumped out early and coasted throughout the second half of the 31-point blowout, allowing first-year coach Chris Holtmann to enjoy his first game in charge of the Scarlet and Gray — sort of.
Holtmann said he received scads of texts and emails from friends and colleagues reminding him to take time to enjoy his OSU debut but “I ignored all of those messages.” Instead, he was admittedly antsy in his 200th game as a college head coach (now 115-85).
It turns out the young and undefined Buckeyes had this one handled all along. Some of my immediate observations follow:
* Keith Bates-Diop is back — and not just physically able to play after last season’s leg fracture but back in good form. The extremely long-armed and fluid combo forward was a constant headache for the Colonials (0-1) and finished with team highs in points (19) and rebounds (11). He made putbacks, scored with his off hand, calmly hit scoop shots and pull-ups.
With his game looking complete, he offers hope for Holtmann, who maintains the KBD and senior Jae’Sean Tate are the barometers of success. Bates-Diop also appears to be a major problem for overmatched foes like Robert Morris, which didn’t have a clue on how to disrupt him.
RMU coach Andrew Toole called Bates-Diop “smooth, highly skilled and talent” more than once. He also said KBD is a clear foundation player for Holtmann. safe to say Bates-Diop’s health is of premium importance again this season.
* It’s way too early to know how well the Buckeyes will do on the boards this season, but they are off to a good start. OSU outrebounded the Colonials 51-23. Tate and frosh Kaleb Wesson each backed KBD’s 11 rebounds with seven. Nine Buckeyes had at least three rebounds. Only two Robert Morris players managed to do so.
* Speaking of a lack of balance, RMU had two players with eight made field goals while Leonard Washington struggled through a 2-for-10 night. No other Colonial made more than one basket. Yikes.
* Must Jallow is a spark plug off the bench. With KBD and Tate locked into starting roles, the 17-year-old Jallow, who could be a senior in high school right now if he hadn’t reclassified, is going to be someone who can add instant energy when he subs into games.
Jallow logged 11 points, three rebounds and a pair of steals in his collegiate debut but mostly he seemed to be in the middle of the action. Similarly, freshman forward Kyle Young excited the crowd with a couple of very late dunks and is a finisher who will be fun to watch.
* Kam Williams may be ready for a more consistent send-off season. He thrived when Holtmann took the veteran forwards out of the game and hit tough shots late in the shot clock. Best of all, he didn’t seem to force too many shots and was a solid 2 of 5 from long range.
* Get used to seeing Andrew Dakich sharing the point guard duties with C.J. Jackson, who shouldn’t be asked to play 30-plus minutes a game come Big Ten time. Jackson had seven points and six assists yet Dakich opened some eyes without even taking a shot. That’s because he had five assists, three rebounds and did a good job of directing the half court attack in his 17 minutes of action.
The son of former college coach and current television analyst Dan Dakich, Andrew transferred from Michigan in the summer without a defined role but appears to be earning one quickly.
* Holtmann said he walks away from the game most concentrated on trying to clean up the miscues. The Buckeyes had 16 assists but committed 19 turnovers, some of them coming simply from sloppy ball handling. Tate had six of them.
The Buckeyes also were anything but stellar from three-point range, hitting just 5 of 18 (27.8 percent), although that could be improved with better shot selection.
* It was enjoyable to see both Andre and Kaleb Wesson in the game together less than two years after winning a high school state title on the very same floor. Young, by the way, led Massillon Jackson to the big-school state championship in March.
* Speaking of The Schott, the announced attendance was just 11,128 for the opener. That figures to continue until football ends and the Buckeye hoopsters show they are worth the investment. But even with most of the upper sections sparsely populated, the fans on hand managed to generate plenty of noise.
My guess is this team will be a pleasant surprise this season and one that will be deserving of more support as the campaign trudges onward.